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Why Bloggers Should Want Comments on FriendFeed

Blog comments aren’t dead, but FriendFeed comments have emerged as equally valuable. Robert Scoble has a post up now in which he states:

My Tesla post gathered two comments here.

13 comments and 12 “Likes” over on FriendFeed.

Let’s just stick a fork in it. Comments are dead.

I don’t think they’re dead, but I do think he raises a good point. The interaction that occurs on FriendFeed is so much easier and freewheeling than it is on blogs.

Blogs that don’t have a lot of comments can feel like museums (“look, but don’t touch”). It feels like it takes an extra effort to put a comment there, because you can’t really feed off others’ participation.

FriendFeed’s got four things that make it really, really good for commenting:

  1. Wide open nature – anyone can jump in
  2. More lively subscription base – RSS subscribers are great for views, but not for comments. FriendFeed’s interaction nature stokes conversations in a much better way
  3. The barrier to commenting is lower – I commented on Robert’s post about this, and got a message saying my comment was “awaiting moderation”. Not on FriendFeed – where I just typed and clicked “Post”.
  4. FriendFeed’s viral attention features – Likes/Comments cause content to bounce to the top of the screen and friend-of-friend interactions cause people outside your subscription base to see your blog post, generating more views and comments

Keep the blog comments coming, but I’m quite happy to have you comment on FriendFeed too.

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See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Why+Bloggers+Should+Want+Comments+on+FriendFeed%22&public=1

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Breaking the Rules and Still Winning: Twitter’s Je Ne Sais Quoi

When I was in grad school our professor gave us an assignment. Our papers had to be within a set word count. Nearly all of us diligently stayed within that rule, constraining our analysis as best we could. But not one classmate. He blew right through the word count restriction. When the professor discussed our papers the next day, he called out this student’s paper as the best of the lot. We all learned two things that day:

  1. Ignore this professor’s word count restrictions in the future
  2. Rules don’t matter if you create something people love

Twitter is going through its toughest stretch ever right now. Here’s a FriendFeed search on the phrase “twitter is dead to me“. And here’s Steve Isaacs’ thoughts on the current Twitter:

I expect Twitter to be 1) reliable = epic fail. 2) Something more than a simple one way alerting medium = fail 3) to grow and mature like all great web services = also a fail. Am I being too hard, I think not.

Pretty grim, eh?

Well, not so bad. Several big names have recently stated their new interest in FriendFeed in lieu of Twitter. But read these comments closely, and tell me that these guys have really given up on Twitter:

The beautiful thing about Twitter is that spontaneous, diverse conversations erupt that are almost synchronous, or chat like – Michael Arrington, in post praising FriendFeed over Twitter

I’m steering people to FriendFeed, can’t help it. My discussions are happening there. And bonus: It pisses off Steve Gillmor. :-)Dave Winer

Really tired of Replies being broken here. Spending more time in FF, but still subscribing only to close friends over there. – Shel Israel

There are others. These are people who are practically being dragged away from their favorite social media app.

Their words say FriendFeed, but their hearts say Twitter.

And this is what I mean. Let’s look at the rules Twitter has broken.

Rule #1: Build a scalable platform

Well, this is the crux of the current problem, so clearly they messed this one up. Google didn’t mess this one up. Amazon.com didn’t. eBay didn’t. Yahoo didn’t.

Twitter did.

Rule #2: Communicate with your users

For the most part over the last several months, communication has been via the Fail Whale. Not a lot of feedback to the loyal users about the problems. And when features are removed, it doesn’t seem to be communicated correctly.

Dave Winer noted that Twitter’s own employees are not among the power users of Twitter. The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.

Rule #3: Web 2.0 companies actively add features

A hallmark of hosted web 2.0 services is they constantly roll out new features as they get feedback from users.

Not Twitter. They rely on a robust ecosystem of developers to take care of that. Twitter users relied on a member of that ecosystem, Summize.com, while they took down the Replies tab this past week.

Rule #4: Web companies need realistic paths toward profitability

And that generally means advertising. But not Twitter, at least not yet. Profitability shmofitability. But to be fair, when you see YouTube picked up by Google without revenue, and Powerset purchased by Microsoft without revenue, you realize this is a rule that is getting relaxed more and more.

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But Twitter’s Got that Je Ne Sais Quoi

Dave Winer appears to be twittering about as much as he always has. He has also started to engage folks on FriendFeed as well, as a look at his comments there shows. But Twitter got its Replies feature back Saturday, causing Dave to wonder:

Now that Replies are back, we get to find out if our fling with FF is the real thing, or just a summer love.

And here’s a sampling of FriendFeed comments on his tweet:

  • “Twitter is the Cliff Notes of Friendfeed. Quick and easy & you get the gist.”
  • “For me, it’s like friends with benefits and evaporates when my true love returns.”
  • “Twitter is my Best Friend… Friend Feed is my Book Club… there’s more ‘deep conversation’ over here – but I don’t always want every conversation to either be non-existent or terribly deep. Sometimes I just want to twitter like a little bird.”
  • “I like FF – I love Twitter – FF needs to be organized differently, I think – it doesn’t have the right logical setup for me.”
  • “I’m sure people will complain about twitter when it fails to work, but when they manage to kick themselves and make it work, people will flock back”

This comment from Arrington’s FriendFeed-favorable TechCrunch post captures it for me:

I will stick with Twitter for now, because even though about half of my tweets are @ replies, I don’t really use it for _conversation_ per se – more like spontaneous short IM chats that end in <3 tweets and involve 2-3 people. Don’t need an entirely different website to “manage” that.

Twitter’s got that new funding including Jeff Bezos, they’ve got heavyweights rooting for them (e.g. Arrington’s “Twitter!” post) and loyal users who are sticking with them despite the limited functionality.

Twitter also has going for it the same asset that helped AOL through its downtime crisis in the late 1990s. If you were on AOL, you had all your email connections there. Switching costs were high. Same thing applies to Twitter. Social network switching costs are high, a point recently made by Corvida.

Here’s what I predict will happen. The new architecture is built. New features will be added (threading tweets, Seesmic-like video conversations, etc). There will be an avalanche of positive coverage: “Twitter’s Back!” And it will continue its growth trajectory after a 9-month rocky road.

Twitter…breaking all the rules and living to tell about it.

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See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Breaking+the+Rules+and+Still+Winning%3A+Twitter%E2%80%99s+Je+Ne+Sais+Quoi%22

Weekly Recap 062708: The FriendFeed Immigration Continues

Twitter’s replies tab has been disabled most of this week, causing a fair amount of consternation…without Replies, it’s hard to maintain asynchronous conversations, or even synchronous ones if you’re conversing with 10,000+ people…

So a few more of the bigger technorati are discovering the merits of FriendFeed…

Michael Arrington: “Friendfeed for most users was just a place to bookmarks all their activities on other social networks. Now, more and more, it’s a place that people start conversations. The early adopters got that a while ago. Now, the not so early adopters are using it as a Twitter replacement, too.”

Dave Winer: “I’m steering people to FriendFeed, can’t help it. My discussions are happening there. And bonus: It pisses off Steve Gillmor. :-)”

Shel Israel: “Really tired of Replies being broken here. Spending more time in FF, but still subscribing only to close friends over there.”

Steve Gillmor: “friendfeed is getting very close to being usable”

Chris Saad: “So is the idea we use friendfeed instead of Twitter? Does that actually work?”

Not bad at all…but we’ll see how long it lasts…collectively, the last four (excluding Arrington) have 18,670 followers, which is hard to match any time soon on FriendFeed…as Corvida noted:

when you get out of one relationship that you’ve put so much time and effort into, do you really feel like going out there, just to find a replacement to try to rebuild what you had with someone else?

Once Twitter rights its ship (in several months), we’ll see how many of the Twitter refugees stick around on FriendFeed…

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Have you heard of the Persian Cam Room on FriendFeed? Join it! Amazing pictures can be found there.

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Amazing pictures can be found there.

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I often see complaints on FriendFeed about too much FriendFeed talk…to which I say, that’s why they provide the Hide function…

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Facebook has added FriendFeed-like functionality, allowing comments on the activity streams of your friends…I’m trying it out a bit, here are a few initial impressions:

  • It’s hard to comment on someone adding the “Hug Me” application
  • Status updates are easier content on which to comments
  • You really get used to the speed with which commenting and accessing new content occurs. Facebook is so painfully slow in comparison
  • I was pleased with the comments I got back after I did my first round of comments. Will continue to play with it.

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Finally, I wanted to note the moves of several solo bloggers into the “big time”

Interestingly enough, Frederic had just the prior week written a post in which he noted:

It’s close to impossible for a solo blogger to make a living in the tech blogosphere.

Now he’s part of the big time…congrats to all!

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Weekly+Recap+062708%3A+The+FriendFeed+Immigration+Continues%22&public=1

What’s Your Blogging Style? Use FriendFeed Likes/Comments Ratio to Find Out

Julian Baldwin asked a question today on FriendFeed: “Roughly speaking, what is your comment to like ratio here on FriendFeed?” Based on the responses, a  lot of folks are doing more commenting than liking, but I suspect the responses aren’t totally representative. Still you can see a lot of emphasis on commenting.

Which made me wonder about turning this around a bit. Instead of looking at each person’s ratio of Likes to Comments, what could be gleaned from figuring that ratio out for a blog?

I selected several blogs, and totaled the number of Likes and the number of Comments for the last 30 posts of each blog. I then calculated the ratio of Likes to Comments, and mapped the bloggers to roughly one of four blogging styles:

  • Stir it up
  • Can we talk?
  • Observing the scene
  • Stuff you want to know

There are some adjustments and limitations related to this; they follow below. But first, the map of bloggers to blogging styles. To reiterate, the ratios you see below are calculated this way:

# Likes / # Comments = blogging style

So for instance, Dave Winer’s ratio is actually below 1.0. He gets more Comments than Likes. Here’s the map:

As I put this together, the analysis does seem to ring true from my perspective.

Here are the adjustments and limitations:

  • Some bloggers are really active at responding to comments on FriendFeed. This tended to drive their number of Comments up. For instance, Alexander van Elsas could put on a clinic in terms of engaging commenters on FriendFeed. I should be so good. So I gave the number of Comments a haircut for several bloggers.
    • Alexander van Elsas – 33% haircut
    • Myself – 25%
    • Mark Dykeman – 25%
    • J. Phil – 25%
    • Colin Walker – 25%
  • The analysis only applies to the main blog for each person (listed below)
    • No Toluu activity updates
    • No Qik videos
    • No side blogs that augment the main one
    • Etc.
  • Only the blogger’s own feed was used in this analysis. This is imperfect, as it does not include Likes and Comments for other ways thr blog post gets into FriendFeed:Google Reader shares, tweets, direct posts, del.icio.us, etc.
  • Some great new bloggers aren’t here, as they build out their blogs with posts.
  • The 30 blog posts per author only included entries with at least 1 Like or Comment.

And quickly, here are the links to the blogs used in the analysis:

What do you think? Does the Likes/Comments Ratio make sense as a blog style indicator?

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22What%E2%80%99s+Your+Blogging+Style%3F+Use+FriendFeed+Likes%2FComments+Ratio+to+Find+Out%22&public=1

Smart Workers Will Figure This Out: Social Media = Career Advancement

Do you think you’ve got more to contribute to your organization than you’ve had a chance to show? I’ll bet you do too.

There have been a fair number of posts about the adoption rate of web 2.0 inside companies. In my previous work doing enterprise 2.0 product marketing for BEA Systems, I can confirm a growing interest out in the corporate world.

But interest from the higher-ups is one thing. What makes the employees actually want to wiki/blog/tag/comment/tweet?

I came across this comment on an old Nick Carr post, Web 2.0′s Numbskull Factor:

Successful adoption [of web 2.0 inside companies] is likely to be driven by the usual three support cycles involved in effective change: achieving personal benefits from using them, seeing peers achieving the same benefits and continuous management support over the 24-36 months required to embed them in business as usual.

Graham Hill, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Graham’s three elements are spot on. In this post, I want to discuss the first two cycles he discusses. The third cycle is for another post.

Personal Benefits Come in Two Flavors

In a company setting, personal benefits mean one thing:

How will it improve my career?

I know that’s a bit crass. But I think it speaks to what energizes us to work. You want recognition that you can “bring it”.

Two ways such an outcome occurs with social media/web 2.0:

  1. Makes me better at my job and strengthens relationships with colleagues
  2. Others with the power to advance my career start to form a good impression of me

In terms of improving your work, web 2.0 apps offer a variety of benefits. That’s actually going to be future post.

The second benefit is one of reputation. I think all us who work in big companies know that reputations are vital to career advancement. You form impressions of others, which frames your view of their work. And most assuredly, others form impressions of you.

In the typical work environment, you interact with others via email, phone, team meeting. Contributions are made, but not recorded. Knowledge of your effort is silo’d and much of the good stuff we do is invisible.

Social media changes the game. As projects run through wikis, a permanent record of your contributions is created. Your comments are visible and searchable, greatly increasing their value relative to verbal contributions or email. A blog post with a good idea is accessible everywhere, at any time. It also can be shown as the spark for that killer product the company introduced. Your tagging of internal data is like Louis Gray sharing posts from Google Reader. People love your tags.

You also get to step outside of your assigned duties, and weigh in on the big issues facing the company. Always felt like you’ve got a good bead on areas the company needs to address? But your manager and peers aren’t really interested? Blog about it. Tweet about it. Comment about it. Establish your cred. If your thinking pans out, you’ve got a basis for demonstrating your contributions.

The other thing is this. Your contributions via social media need to help others. As you offer insight, decisions and ideas, others will find value in your contributions. Well beyond the normal four walls of that cubicle you’re sitting in. You can build relationships with geographies, business units and departments that are not normally in your work sphere.

To recap the benefits of social media for you:

  • Work better
  • Get beyond relying only on the annual review, create an electronic trail of your work
  • Show you can contribute to larger issues affecting the company
  • Establish relationships with people outside your daily social circle
  • Build – better yet, control – your internal reputation

Peers Getting the Benefits

This one is pretty basic. You know those mass internal emails calling out an individual or team for doing something really outstanding? Don’t you love those?

Well, social media will have some of that. You’ll be on the company portal or wiki, and you’ll see a complimentary message for someone’s work on it. If it’s anything like what I see on FriendFeed or Twitter, there will be several of these messages. A great way to give the “atta boy” or “atta girl” to someone’s work.

And everyone else seeing these complimentary messages will start to get the hint. My colleagues are starting to have an impact. I’d better participate.

Final Thoughts

Workers already have a host of channels with which to establish their reputation: project teams, emails, meetings, water cooler. For some, adding web 2.0 apps is just another thing they have to worry about.

Smart employees are going to see things differently. These tools offer the chance to better contribute, to get a better read on the pulse of the company and to better control one’s reputation. A chance to change the rules for career advancement.

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If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Smart+Workers+Will+Figure+This+Out%3A+Social+Media+%3D+Career+Advancement%22&public=1

How Many of Us Find Our True Talent?

Throughout my life, a recurring question has occurred to me: “Am I doing the thing that I’d be best at?” By that, I mean are there talents that lay dormant inside us because we never got to exercise them?

Yeah, I’m waxing a little philosophical.

I look at Tiger Woods. Imagine if his father Earl Woods hadn’t gotten him hooked on golf at a young age. And seen the child prodigy with a sweet swing at the age of 3. Suppose his path had been different. Maybe he goes to law school. Would he be some world class lawyer? Maybe. But I expect he’d be more like a great lawyer in a sea of great lawyers. As opposed to the standout golfer he is.

I look at Sergey Brin. Founded and has grown Google. Wow. Suppose he had decided to practice medicine instead?

Donald Trump…instead of real estate, maybe he’d be a golf pro at the local club.

Al Gore could have been a hell of an accountant…

My own theory is that each of have talents that are uniquely strong in us. For some, these talents would put them on the world stage. For most of us, they’d probably vault us to the top of a particular field. And yet I suspect that most of us never hit on those unique talents.

Why?

  • Too quick to focus on something at a young age, never trying out other areas
  • No opportunities to surface and develop the hidden talent
  • Practical realities – kids, mortgage, caring for someone who is ill – prevent a move into a different field

Some hypothetical examples: You’re a solid IT manager in your company. But it turns out you have a hidden talent for making exquisite furniture. You’re a consultant to Fortune 500 companies. But you have an unknown talent for designing scalable architectures. You’re the financial controller for your company. But you would have been an amazing, Gretzky-like hockey player.

As I go through my own career, I do wonder about this idea. But even more important to me is thinking about my two kids (4 years old, 19 months old). First priority is their happiness. But if I could help them in figure out the things they are really good at, might they be even happier?

What do you think? Most of us find our “highest and best use”? Or are there opportunities most of us are never aware of?

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22How+Many+of+Us+Find+Our+True+Talent%22&public=1

Investment as Signal: Bezos Funding Twitter Is a Green Light

Twitter announced today that it picked up more funding, which I first heard through Marshall Kirkpatrick’s tweet. He has a nice post up on ReadWriteWeb.

Investments provide three benefits:

  1. Cash
  2. Signal the broader market about the company’s prospects
  3. The investor provides advice, ideas and introductions

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is one of the investors. His investment hits all three benefits listed above.

Let’s look at what Bezos has done while at Amazon.com:

  • Established the preeminent brand for online retail
  • Built a platform for small merchants to sell on
  • Integrated user ratings as a key element of the sales process
  • Pioneered affiliate marketing
  • Developed Amazon’s highly successful recommendation engine (35% of sales)
  • Created a vibrant cloud services offering
  • Gambled on Kindle, which is showing some promise despite skepticism

Clearly, the guy has a good eye for things that can be successful.

Now he’s put his own money into Twitter.

What are the two biggest things Twitter needs?

  1. Reliable, scalable architecture
  2. Monetization strategy

Amazon.com processes how many transactions per hour? I imagine the number is huge. Amazon Web Services are all about scalability, with the need to process millions of transactions reliably. If you can’t scalability master Google or its executives to invest in you, I’d say having the founder of Amazon.com qualifies as the next best choice.

Monetization is the other question for Twitter. Amazon has had success in its affiliate marketing (relevance drives the clicks, distributed advertising program), its recommendations (35% of sales, driven by relevance) and in its fee-based Amazon Web Services. Ads, incremental revenue, web services fees. You think in that mix there is a solid revenue model for Twitter? I’d bet on it.

I really like this investment by Bezos in Twitter. Good for Twitter, and I hope it portends success for them in the months ahead.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Investment+as+Signal%3A+Bezos+Funding+Twitter+Is+a+Green+Light%22&public=1

Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed?

I believe that Participation is the killer app.

Whether it is end user participation in content driven conversations on blogs and wikis, or end user developed applications, mash-ups and widgets, I think that it is participation that key difference between Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise 1.0.

Rod Boothby, Participation Is the Killer App, Innovation Creators

Making work more interesting and more engaging would have benefits for companies and workers. To that end, I’ve suggested that FriendFeed has aspects applicable inside the enterprise. Steven Hodson took it a step further, suggesting engineers could use FriendFeed rooms to manage their software development.

The idea of using rooms for work purposes has been broached by other as well:

  • possible248: “Companies already have blogs and wikis, is there going to be something like a FriendFeed room that they can host on their own server?”
  • Jigar Mehta: “How would it be, if FriendFeed allows users to attach documents (doc, docx, ppt, pdf, txt, rtf) and discuss over them!!”

Personally, I think there’s a lot of merit to this idea. I’ve seen so many good discussions around ideas on FriendFeed. And for many of us, work is the creation, advocacy and execution of ideas – projects, presentations, campaigns, financings, etc.

The land of wikis is well developed, but most of them suffer from only emphasizing multiple user changes to documents and revision tracking. They lack the interactive participation that makes FriendFeed so compelling.

With that in mind, I wanted to come up with a list of features that would provide very basic wiki functionality in FriendFeed rooms. Wikis can have all sorts of advanced features. What would be the minimum feature set to make rooms function as lightweight wikis?

To be clear about the objective…I’ll set the wiki bar low. A room would only exist to manage the production of a smaller project or document. No large-scale stuff here. And that’s probably a good approach in business anyway.

Rooms already have three key elements for making them into wikis:

  • Ability to manage who the room members are
  • Room-specific search
  • RSS directly into rooms

Here are my four features for wikifying FriendFeed rooms:

  1. Better handling of RSS feeds for document changes
  2. Sticky setting for entries
  3. Timestamp comments
  4. New comments and entries notification

Better Handling of RSS Feeds for Document Changes

In Jigar Mehta’s entry, Nick Lothian commented:

Doesn’t GDocs have a RSS feed for changes? Hook that up and then you can have discussion about the changes to documents

That makes a lot of sense to me. FriendFeed doesn’t need to upload the document and maintain revisions. It can leverage that functionality in another app, like Google Docs. And this use case is exactly how FriendFeed works: users read blog entries and then come back to FriendFeed to Like and Comment.

I set up a public document on Google Docs, and had the document changes feed into a specific room: Rooms Wiki Experiment. If you go there, you’ll see my original entry, “Politics 2008 – Google Docs”. I commented a couple times. Then you’ll see another entry called “Restricted”. If you had access to the source document, you’d see information about revisions. I, of course, do have access. And that link only takes you to Revision #3. I made 15 revisions, but those changes didn’t stream into the room.

So that needs to work better, either from Google Docs or within FriendFeed.

Sticky Setting for Entries

Brad McCrorey posted a good question on FriendFeed:

Would having a “sticky” setting that keeps an item at the top of the room be too “forum like”? I think I’d get some use out of it.

I like this idea. In terms of advancing a project or document, this feature would let key decisions remain visible to everyone in the room.

Timestamp Comments

This is a recurring request. And it makes sense in terms of the wiki. Projects and documentsd evolve, and the timestamp helps one understand whether a comment was made before a change or after it. Or before a decision, or after it.

Timestamps give an extra bit of context to the interactions that occur around the project.

New Comments and Entries Notification

Inside a company, you are busy with multiple tasks. You’re not likely to keep the FriendFeed room up all the time (although that may be possible).

But it’s important to know when new entries have been posted. These entries would be:

  • New changes to a document
  • New direct posts of someone with an idea or question
  • New document added to the room

Notification provides the visibility needed to ensure interactive participation and timely decision-making.

Final Thoughts

The comment at the top of this post reflects my position regarding the future of work. More open, more interactive, broader participation, more engaging. FriendFeed, and Twitter as well, have created terrific interactive models not seen in most Enterprise 2.0 apps today.

I’m sure the FriendFeed guys aren’t worried about this now. But somewhere along the line, companies may see the potential in FriendFeed and begin asking for this type of functionality.

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Using+FriendFeed+Rooms+for+Work%3A+What%E2%80%99s+Needed%22&public=1

Social Media Effect: Improve Customer Service Before It Hits Twitter

Customer service is the new marketing and you have to Engage and Respect your customers.

Joseph Rodgers, Filter 2 Evangelist, Joseph Rodgers’ Internet Marketing Blog

The above quote actually has two meanings in my mind. The first meaning is to find customers who are having problems with your product or service, and engage them out in social media. Smart companies are doing it more and more, with great examples from Louis Gray, Colin Walker and Sarah Perez.

The second meaning for me is this:

Social media puts more power in consumers’ hands than ever before, and companies need to recognize that the messages their customers post will in time become as valuable as TV commercials, online ads, and magazine and newspaper ads.

Customers should not have to make a complaint on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook or other social media. Rather, companies need to become more aware that the way they treat their customers is going to be broadcast, with positive or negative effects on their brands.

In my previous jobs, I know that customer service tended to be that backoffice operation.  Some guy somewhere worked on that. Not something into which many in the organization invested a lot of thought. The function is not considered strategic, and many companies figured they could outsources the work.  A 2006 article from Business 2.0 pointed out the problems with outsourced customer service.

A 2005 Gartner study predicts that 60 percent of organizations that outsource customer-facing processes will see significant numbers of frustrated customers switching to competitors.

And that was before the rise of social media. Now a customer that is dissatisfied isn’t just switching to a competitor. They’re going to tell their social networks about it.

What this means is that companies need to realize that their operational cost-center approach to customer service needs to change. A couple examples tell the tale.

Adobe Customer Service

Adobe makes some killer products. The Adobe PDF is everywhere. Photoshop continues to be quite popular. Adobe is keeping the photo processing at the leading edge. Adobe Air is the new technology for rich Internet applications. All good stuff, and clearly Adobe is maintaining its market leadership position.

Which makes it such a shame that its customer service is so weak. Here are the most recent six tweets on Summize.com for “adobe customer service“:

Now when you’re producing kick-ass products, perhaps you can get away with bad customer service. But if viable competitors gain traction and deliver comparable products, what people say about your company will make a difference. Who wants publicity like that above? And those 5 different users have 637 followers on Twitter.

Let’s look at a company that has more favorable than unfavorable publicity.

Amazon Customer Service

Amazon seems to have a particularly good (not perfect) focus on customer service. Here are the most recent six tweets from Summize.com for “amazon customer service“:

Amazon.com does this as a matter of course, and has seen the benefits. The New York Times’ Joe Nocera related his personal experience with Amazon’s customer service in January 2008. Money quote:

There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way. Surely, it was worth it. As for me, the $500 favor the company did for me this Christmas will surely rebound in additional business down the line. Why would I ever shop anywhere else online? Then again, there may be another reason good customer service makes sense. “Jeff used to say that if you did something good for one customer, they would tell 100 customers,” Mr. Kotha said.

Final Thoughts

Customer service has not traditionally been sexy. It reflects imperfections in the product, service or in the explanations for how to use it. Who wants to deal with that?

But as companies start to see their customers talking about them in various social media, it will become apparent that all customer touch points are chanves to burnish or tarnish their brands.

Customer service groups…please step into the spotlight.

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Social+Media+Effect%3A+Improve+Customer+Service+Before+It+Hits+Twitter%22

Weekly Recap 062008: Baby I’m-a Want You

Babies sure can take a long time to arrive, can’t they? I don’t want to see an update from Louis until at least an hour after their birth, even longer…first things first…

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Benjamin Golub, creator of RSSmeme, received an email from an irate blogger this week…a couple of her posts had been shared via Google Reader, and ended up on RSSmeme. She wanted them taken down…

I was surprised, as I had only seen links and partial feeds for blogs on RSSmeme…turns out, there was a full feed option…

RSSmeme does run Google ads, but Benjamin’s not getting rich off them…they offset the server costs…

Still, it did set up an issue where the full content of a blog was accessible on a different site, and the site was earning money on the content via ads…

Duncan Riley came out pretty strong in favor of the blogger…partial feeds are fine, as the reader must visit the actual blog to read the whole thing…but full feeds crossed the line…I find myself agreeing with Duncan on this one…

The cool thing about RSSmeme is that it indicates how popular an item was by the number of shares…it also tells you who did the sharing…so if someone’s interested in the full blog post based on (i) its subject; (ii) the number of Reader shares; and (iii) who did the sharing, they will click the link to read the post on the actual blog…full feeds on RSSmeme aren’t needed…

*****

TechCrunch posts are published under two separate users on FriendFeed, Michael Arrington and Erick Schonfeld…but the action always seems to be around Arrington’s user ID…

Looking at the past ten TechCrunch posts, Arrington’s FriendFeed has 22 Likes and Comments, Schonfeld has 2…

Why such a disparity?…Arrington is the public face of TechCrunch, so people will gravitate toward his feed even if he hasn’t written the post…Arrington follows 1,329 people on FriendFeed, Schonfeld follows 79…Arrington’s FriendFeed handle is techcrunch while Schonfeld’s is erick…so if you looking for the TechCrunch feed on FriendFeed, you’re naturally going to find Arrington first…

*****

Finally applied the FriendFeed Block function to a user…it wasn’t that he was hassling me, but he has a tendency to spam FriendFeed entries with unrelated things and links…he added one right after I posted a comment on one entry, which disrupted the vibe of the entry…so I finally pulled the trigger…

I actually feel bad about doing it…

*****

With the recent post about nudity on FriendFeed, the search term nudity is starting to show up a regular referral to my blog…not quite was I was looking for, but traffic is traffic…

Which makes me wonder what kind of search term hits Ginger Makela will get for her recent post Now That I’ve Got Your Attention with BOOBS, a Word from Our Sponsor…Ginger did ad sales for Google, so she knows a thing or two about SEO

*****

I did experience a few users unsubscribing from me on FriendFeed the past week or so…you write about nudity, gay marriage and Like Flickr pix with nudity, that will happen…

*****

Some couples on FriendFeed that I enjoy…Lindsay Donaghe and Tad DonagheThomas Hawk and Mrs Hawk

*****

And thanks go out to Steven Hodson for putting this humble little blog up on pedestal…if you’re not subscribing to his blog WinExtra, you should…click here to add it to your reader…

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22weekly+recap+062008%22&public=1

Fred Wilson’s Techmeme Challenge: Can a Little Tweet Go Big Time?

Last week, Fred Wilson asked this:

What will be the first twitter post to get picked up on Techmeme and who will post it?

It’s a good question. First hurdle is a technical issue – Techmeme doesn’t index and scan activity around Twitter.  Here’s Gabe Rivera’s response in full:

It’s hard for me to see how automated aggregation of tweets could be a net win for Techmeme. As others have said, tweets lack context, unlike blog which are much more self contained. Could tweets be reassembled into something more coherent for Techmeme? Automated processes for doing that are too error prone, at least by the standards Techmeme would demand. And even if they were perfect, the results will still look strange and disjointed. And in any case, blog posts tend to emerge quickly for the most important stories “breaking” on Twitter. Techmeme has definitely benefited from the Twitter ecosystem. For one thing, Twitter serves as a backchannel that prompts people to blog about things they otherwise would have discovered too late or not at all. Of course Techmeme publishes to Twitter too. But aggregation of the tweets themselves is a tough nut to crack.

In there, you’ll see the technology answer. He also addresses a larger issue, which is that tweets lack context as standalone content. But Fred Wilson answers that question this way:

But you can permalink to a tweet So if dozens of high profile blogs did that, then would that tweet be techmeme material and would it be right for that to be the anchor post?

Context is the name of the game here. If Gabe ever tracked individual tweets (thus solving the technical issue), I think there are two paths toward getting context.

  1. Self-evident context for the specific tweet
  2. An aggregation of comments around the tweet

These are different angles on the context subject. Let’s break ‘em down, shall we?

Self-Evident Context

Fred Wilson hits the nail on the head for one way to evaluate context. What blogs are linking to the tweet?

My understanding of the inner workings of Twitter is incomplete, but one thing that’s important is whether a given party has been on Techmeme before.  Even better if said party was part of the Techmeme 100. Here’s how Robert Scoble described it:

TechMeme works partly on this principle: past behavior is best indiction of future success. So, Techcrunch gets on top for a lot of things because he’s been best in the past.

With zero tweets on Techmeme thus far, any tweet that makes it there will need an extra boost to get there. Self-evident context will be provided by two sources:

  • The Techmeme status of the person who made the tweet
  • The Techmeme status of the blogs that link to it

The Techmeme status of the person twittering is key. It’s one thing for Joe Blow to tweet “rumor: amazon.com to buy yahoo”. But if Techmeme regular Kara Swisher tweeted it, then we’re talking! There’d be the challenge of linking Boomtown Kara Swisher with Twitter Kara Swisher. But that doesn’t seem insurmountable.

The first element of context – the Twitterer’s Techmeme status – is linked to the second element, which blogs will link to the tweet. Unless we see a delphic newbie emerge, most high profile bloggers will pay attention to existing A-Listers. Here’s a visual description of all this:

This shouldn’t come across as a negative. It’s reality. The A-Listers got there by knowledge and skill, and have reputations to protect. If they put something out there, you really can put greater credence in it.

That’s self-evident context.

Aggregation of Comments Around the Tweet

The second scenario for a tweet would be the aggregation of conversations around it. The thing here is that the heat of the comments drives its placement on Techmeme. Assuming a lot of comments, and that the subject matter fits the Techmeme sphere.

But this scenario for context still requires some Techmeme juice. Both the original Twitterer and the subsequent commenters will need Techmeme status. Using the commenting from FriendFeed, here is an example:

The red boxes on the FriendFeed comments are for bloggers who regularly make Techmeme (Fred Wilson, Mathew Ingram, Louis Gray, Steve Rubel, Robert Scoble). So the presence of those comments gives the tweet the right context. It’s got Techmeme firepower.

I could see the aggregated comments for a tweet driving that tweet onto Techmeme. And FriendFeed makes it easy to track the conversations around a tweet. Which answers one of Gabe’s concerns in his comment above about tracking the contextual conversations around the tweet.

Final Thoughts

Fred ain’t so crazy. I could see a tweet hitting Techmeme, under a couple scenarios. But it will take the right combination of existing A-Lister Techmeme firepower to make it happen.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Fred+Wilson%E2%80%99s+Techmeme+Challenge%3A+Can+a+Little+Tweet+Go+Big+Time%22&public=1

Knowledge & Innovation: The Journey Is as Valuable as the Destination

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty traditional background in terms of product management. I was an assistant buyer for a retail chain, I marketed as an investment banker, and I’ve had over seven years in the software world. From that work, I’ve gotten a good feel for the process that occurs in producing an end result.

  1. Start with the idea
  2. Bounce it off your boss and peers
  3. Write it up
  4. Email it around
  5. Sit down with people
  6. Re-work the idea
  7. Produce the final version (PRD, white paper, pitch deck, etc.)

For most of us, step 7 is the prize, the definition of what’s valuable. All else is a pain in the ass.

But having spent some time on FriendFeed, I’m starting to recognize the value of steps 2 – 6. The conversations and debates to get from Point A to Point B are actually incredibly valuable.

The problem isn’t the work of getting from Point A to Point B. The problem is the methods we typically have inside the workplace. I suspect few corporate cultures are set up to make the journey as rewarding as the end result.

What do I mean exactly? Well, take the iteration process for a given initiative. You send an email, get single replies back from several folks. You sit in a meeting, and there’s this vague group meeting dynamic where someone with the most passion (right or wrong) ends up controlling the meeting vibe. Maybe you do a series of one-on-ones.

The problem with these methods is that the conversations are limited. Debates take the form of comparing the feedback of different people. I know this. I’ve lived it. You ever try to coordinate the Outlook Calendars of various people? In a series of meetings? It’s a nightmare.

So what has FriendFeed taught me? That there is a way to improve this process. That the journey to  Point B can actually be fun and engaging. And that it has value. Companies should take heed.

Here’s what I would love to see. Companies adopt ways to enable asynchronous conversations around ideas that are searchable, engaging and radiate greater benefits than just producing a final result. Wikis are good, but they too often have an emphasis on maintaining versions of documents. They lack the vital conversations that go into the various versions of a document.

What are the benefits of companies than can figure this out? Plenty! Here are three that come to mind:

  • Context for the end product
  • Other ideas come out of the process
  • Deeper understanding of others’ views and knowledge

Let me break these down a bit more.

Context for the End Product

When consuming the content after it is completed, all someone knows is what they read. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The document says that System A will do Action 3 after receiving Data #. It’s a straightforward recitation of what people are supposed to know.

But if you have context for why things are spelled out the way they are, I argue you’ve got much more informed workers.

I’m personally not satisfied with only reading something. I always want to know why something ended up the way it did. Especially when you’re reading something new, that background is vital context.

But too often, all workers have is the end product. Which means they end up with half the story, and not enough background to really grok the content.

Other Ideas Come Out of the Process

A rich conversation and debate around ideas and projects can become an innovation jam. As people jump in the fray to discuss something, inevitably other tangential ideas come flying out.

In an earlier post FriendFeed ‘Likes’ Compatibility Index, good discussion erupted out on FriendFeed (here, here). If that post was Point A, I’ve already written about Point B, which was an app built by felix to automatically calculate your likes compatibility index.

But there was another idea thrown off from the discussions: how well represented are women on FriendFeed and social media? Mark Trapp wrote Friendfeed Like Factor and the Gender Divide which put some numbers and thoughts to this question. Which got its own discussion going.

I’m quite sure an energetic conversation by engaged employees has the same effect – unplanned ideas come out of them.

Spread some innovation jam.

Deeper Understanding of Others’ Views and Knowledge

It’s funny to say, but I feel like I have a better read on some folks through FriendFeed than I did on people with whom I actually worked.

Why? Because work in some companies is fairly isolated. You may trade some emails, do some calls and attend status meetings. But the fertile soil of engagement is lacking. Aside from missing the benefits described above, employees miss the opportunity to learn more about one another.

Why does this matter? The better you understand your colleagues, the easier your job becomes. People develop instinctive ways of working, and a shorthand language built from prior interactions emerges. Long time employees do this, but it takes while. And new employees have to pick up the signals as best they can.

What I like about this approach is that employee social networks just emerge naturally via the interactions. A more formal social network approach isn’t needed.

Gimme Some FriendFeed Inside the Enterprise

If I could get a FriendFeed-like experience inside a company, I’d be thrilled. For all the reasons stated above. Plus it would just be fun.

I’ve said before that FriendFeed is a social network built around ideas. And the typical work for a lot of folks is also around ideas. Seems like there’s potential.

There would need to be some new features to make it the experience more pertinent to work versus play. But that’s a follow-up post.

Final Thoughts

As stated earlier, I’d like to see companies adopt ways to enable asynchronous conversations around ideas that are searchable, engaging and radiate greater benefits. Things like wikis are a good start as collaboration vehicles, but they lack the interaction aspect that has emerged as the killer feature of social media.

The nice thing is that new start-ups are popping up all the time. I look forward to seeing the ones that take in the next wave of innovation.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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